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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

As far as we pan see into the future, there will always be a multiplicity
of regional languages for everyday use. Those who advocate the intro-
duction of an international medium do not dispute this. What they do
assert is the need for a second language as a common medium for
people who speak mutually unintelligible tongues. They envisage a
world, or at least federations of what were once sovereign States,
where people of different speech communities would be bilingual.
Everyone would still grow up to speak one or other of existing national
languages, but everyone would also acquire a single auxiliary for
supra-national communication. This prospect is not incompatible with
the mental capacities of ordinary human beings; nor does it involve a
total break with existing practice Bilingualism exists already in
Wales, Belgium, South Africa and many other parts Throughout the
English-speaking world all secondary-school children study at least one
foreign language, that is, French, Spanish, or German; and in some
countries pupils who leave school with a smattering of a foreign language
are in the majority.
In Britain they are not. Most of the children enter the labour market
with a knowledge of no language other than their own Consequently
millions of adult workers are excluded from direct communication
with their continental comrades. Postponement of the school-leaving
age will provide an opportunity for bringing the curriculum for ele-
mentary instruction in Britain into line with that of many other coun-
tries. Thus the adoption of an international auxiliary implies- no more
than regularization of existing educational practice, i.e. universal
instruction in a second language and agreement to use one and the
same second language everywhere. Creation of conditions for uniformity
of educational practice by international agreement, as a prelude to
universal bi-linguahsm, as defined above, is not a language problem.
It t$ a political problem
* The views expressed in this chapter are the outcome of joint discussion
between the author and the editor The latter has attempted to give them
shape in a project, Interglossa> whichhasbeen published by Penguin Books Ltd.